10 Questions with Neil White
1. Mr. White, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. THE DEATH COLLECTOR, your newest novel, came out on June 5. Tell us a bit more about this book.
The story is about Joe Parker trying to correct an injustice, which has an effect on a case his brother is involved in.
Aidan Molloy is in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit, and his mother Mary has been a tireless campaigner on his behalf, even though her efforts have been largely ignored. Joe is motivated by selfish reasons though, because he is trying to regain the vigour he used to feel in his legal career.
It’s about a struggle against the odds and how secrets are hard to uncover.
I confess that I am not very good at outlining plots, because I am scared of giving anything away. My favourite films and books are those where I don’t know anything about them, so I let the story unfold in front of me. It isn’t the best sales pitch, I know.
2. Who are the Parker brothers, and where did you find the inspiration for these characters?
The Parker brothers, Sam and Joe, are a detective and a defence lawyer. What attracted me to the idea was the ever-present conflict. One is trying to conclude successful investigations, whereas the other is trying to unravel them. It’s that conflict, the push and the pull, that I found interesting.
I used to be a defence lawyer (I’m a prosecutor now) and I remember the personal conflict, where one’s own feelings about a case conflicted with one’s professional responsibilities. Joe Parker feels some of that and wonders whether he can carry on in his chosen profession.
3. How do you ensure your plots and your stories are always fresh and new?
That is a difficult question because I’m not sure I apply that thought process. It is as simple as thinking of what I regard as an interesting story and hope everyone else likes it. I tend to think of a theme; for example, this book will be about this, or about that, and then craft a plot around it.
In my second book, for instance, Lost Souls, I was interested in precognition, people who believe they dream the future, so I built a story around a character who had that belief.
The hardest thing is not repeating yourself. There have been many occasions when I have thought of a good plot line or ending, but then realised that I had used the idea before.
4. What is your greatest disappointment as a writer? What is your greatest satisfaction?
My greatest disappointment was struggling to find a publisher, and then my greatest satisfaction was finding one.
What motivated me to write wasn’t that I had a burning desire to tell a story, but because I thought I could. It was something I thought I could do, and as a keen reader as a child, I dreamed of seeing my own book up there. Being told by publishers that you aren’t good enough is crushing, but finally being told by one that you are is unbelievably fulfilling.
5. Why do you write?
To prove myself.
I find the creative process hard. I am not someone who can sit in front of a computer screen and bash out five thousand words and regard it as a job well-done. I think about what I’m writing and worry that I’m not writing enough. Meeting other writers has made me realise that I’m not alone.
As I said above, I started writing because I thought I could do it. I carry on writing because I enjoy the sense of achievement of writing a book, and the response from people who have read them.
6. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing?
The world of self-publishing is so varied it is difficult to have a clear opinion. One of the problems is the heat created by those who seem to harbour a grudge against traditionally published authors, who scream about how indie is best and how they can’t wait to stick it to the published authors. Fine, get rid of published authors and let indie be king, and we lose Stephen King, Michael Connolly and many others, and the list could be endless.
There are so many positives to the self-publishing scene that it’s a shame it becomes a spat between traditional and indie. It gives a platform to those who should be published but aren’t. It gives an outlet for those who want to write just for the enjoyment of it. It provides an income for those who prefer it. Fine. We all make our choices.
For me, I have to go back to why I write, which is to prove that I’m good enough. If I am ever out of contract, I don’t think I would self-publish, because then it would be because I had ceased to be good enough. I would accept I’d had my time and retire gracefully. I write to prove that I can. If I self-published now, it would be about the money and nothing more, and I wouldn’t want that. I’ve never done it for the money.
If I imagine ebooks were around ten years ago, before I signed a publishing deal, would I have self-published? Eventually. Probably. Definitely.
For some people, it is their only way. If people enjoy their books, there is no negative. For some people, they just prefer it that way. Again, that is their choice, and good luck to them.
7. What are your favorite pastimes?
Reading, watching films, watching sport.
My main interest is rugby league, which is a version of rugby most popular in the north of England and Australia. My interests do tend to be things that involve sitting around. I’m not particularly active.
8. Had your writing not worked out, what would you have wanted to do?
I was a criminal defence lawyer when I first started out. I told myself that I would write three books, and if I couldn’t get published, I’d take the hint. I wrote two and was floundering on the third. If I hadn’t been taken on by HarperCollins, I would have carried on with my legal career, now as a prosecutor, but the writing failure would have always felt just like that, a failure. I thought I was good enough. To be viewed as not good enough would have hung around me for a long time.
9. What are your writing habits? Outlines or not?
I tend to write outlines of the next fifth. I know what the book is about, usually how it ends, but the step-by-step bit is done in fifths. The reason for this is that what I might think of in November when doing the outline might be replaced by something better in April, when I I’m writing the book. By dealing with each fifth of the book, it allows me to keep developing the storyline but at the same time keep a focus as I’m writing it.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
My next book is about revenge, and how sometimes it comes in a form you least expect.
It opens with a murder of a man in a park. As they try to work out his identity, the police discover that his fingerprint was found on a body found a month earlier.
The back-story to Sam and Joe Parker is that their career choices were motivated by the murder of their sister on Joe’s eighteenth birthday. The next book will deal with that, when Joe thinks he has come face-to-face with her killer.